Legislature reaches halfway point of 2023 spring session
After several busy weeks in Springfield, we are now approaching the halfway point of the 2023 spring session. By March 10, bills had to have advanced out of a substantive committee to remain active. While there are a few loopholes that provide for additional bills to move forward after that date, for the most part, legislators are all very mindful of that committee deadline for our bills.
This week on Friday, March 31, all Senate Bills that cleared a committee must have a successful vote on the floor of the Senate to remain viable. Again, procedural loopholes exist, but bills that passed in the Senate by this important deadline comprise the bulk of measures that will be sent to the House for their consideration.
When we adjourn on March 31st, all members of the General Assembly will return to their home districts for two weeks. We return to Springfield on Tuesday, April 18, at which point bills that were successful in their chamber of origin move to the other chamber for committee hearings and floor votes.
The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn the 2023 spring legislative session on Friday, May 19.
Senator Lewis passes first bill as an Illinois Senator
On Friday, March 24, I successfully passed my first bill as an Illinois Senator. With bipartisan sponsorship, my Senate Bill 1485 received a unanimous vote on the Senate floor. The bill was brought to me by the Illinois Association of Park Districts, and it seeks to ensure the terms of office for the Park District Board cannot be changed while a candidate has filed petitions for that office or during the municipal election cycle. It also includes a provision, in cases when a board’s membership has been expanded or reduced by referendum or resolution, that the change in membership would not affect the terms of currently-elected park district board members.
OSLAD Grants awarded in 24th District
I was pleased to learn recently that $3.7 million in state funds is headed to the 24th Senate District through Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grants.
The OSLAD Program is a state-financed grant program that provides funding assistance to local government agencies for the acquisition and/or development of land for public parks and open space. Projects vary from small neighborhood parks or tot lots to large community and county parks and nature areas. The state program is financed by a percentage of the state’s Real Estate Transfer Tax.
Congratulations to the following park districts:
- $600,000 – Wood Dale Park District
- $400,000 – Carol Stream Park District
- $300,000 – Bloomingdale Park District
- $600,000 – Addison Park District
- $600,000 – Itasca Park District
- $600,000 – Winfield Park District
- $600,000 – Hanover Park Park District
Bill to protect long-term care residents against isolation advances
One of the most vivid memories of the COVID-19 pandemic was the isolation many long-term care residents faced in response to strict government mandates imposed throughout Illinois. Legislation to ensure that kind of isolation can no longer happen was passed unanimously by the Senate’s Executive Committee and now await former Senate floor action. I am the leading Chief Co-Sponsor of the bill.
Senate Bill 2322 directs the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to establish a statewide policy for the visitation of residents in the event of a public health emergency. This policy would require facilities to inform residents of their right to designate both a “primary essential support person” and a “secondary essential support person” of their choice. These support people provide essential care for residents far beyond a general visit. SB 2322 allows residents to continue receiving essential care from their support persons despite visitation restrictions, and even under a statewide emergency. I believe it’s possible to still maintain the safety of residents and staff while also ensuring that our vulnerable population can continue to receive support and care from a loved one.
Upcoming Lewis events for April
My staff and I are finalizing a comprehensive list of community outreach events in the 24th District. Mark your calendars now for these upcoming events:
April 11: Traveling Office Hours: From 10:00 AM until 1:00 PM representatives from my office and the office of State Rep. Jennifer Sanalitro will be at the Roselle Village Hall, ready to help constituents with issues they are having with state agencies and departments. Our well-trained staff can help with unemployment issues, FOID and CCL delays, certification issues, and many other problems you may be having. The Representative and I will attend these events as our schedules allow, but be assured that our constituent services staff will be ready to help you cut through government red tape and find resolution to issues. The Roselle Village Hall is located at 31 S Prospect St, Roselle.
April 12: Traveling Office Hours: From 10:00 AM until 1:00 PM representatives from my office and the office of State Rep. Sanalitro will be at the Bloomingdale Public Library to help constituents with their agency-related needs. The library is located at 101 Fairfield Way, Bloomingdale.
April 22: Prescription Drug Dropoff Event: from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM residents are invited to safely dispose of unused or expired medications. I am partnering with State Rep. Amy Grant for this free event, and you can just drive up while event volunteers help you dispose of items. We’ll be at the Wheaton Police Department, 900 W Liberty Dr, Wheaton for this community outreach event.
Medicaid members encouraged to update home address to avoid risk of loss of coverage
Medicaid members are encouraged to update their contact information, specifically their home mailing address, with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service (IDHFS) or they may risk losing their health insurance coverage.
On March 31, the protections put in place to maintain continuous enrollment in Medicaid will lapse. Prior to the pandemic, Illinois residents were required to annually renew their health insurance coverage to prove they still qualified for the program; however, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government began to provide extra funding to states who did not disqualify any residents from Medicaid. Illinois Medicaid members were automatically re-enrolled during this period.
This protection is now ending. Currently, the first round of anticipated renewal notices will begin to arrive in mailboxes in May, to be due in June. The month participants receive their renewal notices in the mail will depend on when their coverage is expected to expire. Notices will be mailed over the course of a year.
It is critical that participants verify their current address with the HFS. Those who have moved addresses recently can update their information on the HFS website. Residents should keep in mind that it may take some time for contact information to update in the government’s systems and should verify their information before May. Furthermore, residents can check renewal dates online on the Application for Benefits Eligibility website. If Medicaid policyholders are unresponsive to IDHFS notifications and inquiries, they will be unenrolled and lose health insurance coverage.
Lewis Joins Local Leaders to Learn about “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” Program
Last week, it was a privilege to join DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin and other community leaders to learn how members of law enforcement, the military, and businesses are making greater, research-proven investments in children through a very worthwhile organization called “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.” Among others, the organization includes 5,000 law enforcement leaders nationwide, with more than 300 in Illinois. They are police chiefs, sheriffs, and state’s attorneys who support investments in early childhood care and education, after school programs, and the promotion of public safety by setting children on a trajectory toward school success and improved graduation rates, and away from crime.
Illinois Supreme Court hears No-Cash Bail arguments
On Tuesday, March 14, the Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments in the case challenging the “SAFE-T Act,” in which prosecutors argue the no-cash bail provision is unconstitutional. In late December, just days before the provision was set to take effect statewide, a judge in Kankakee County ruled in favor of more than 60 state’s attorneys and declared the controversial provision violated the Illinois Constitution. An appeal was promptly filed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
During the hearing, the lawyers’ arguments centered largely on whether legislators have the authority to make such a large change to pretrial procedures. Attorneys representing the state’s attorneys argued the law is an overreach by the legislative branch. Additionally, the case was made that the Illinois Constitution requires judges to have the ability to set monetary bail.
While the hearing of the case was expedited, the Illinois Supreme Court Justices gave no timeline as to when they will issue a ruling.
“ComEd Four” trial begins
The following day in federal court, opening statements were heard in a high-profile trial in the case against four individuals with ties to ComEd. Prosecutors told jurors that the four ex-ComEd officials participated in a scheme to bribe former Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan in exchange for political favors, including the passage of three controversial bills that directly benefitted the utility giant. The four who stand accused are longtime allies of Madigan, and charges range from bribery to falsifying records. All four defendants have pleaded not guilty.
According to the prosecutors, ComEd steered upwards of $1.3 million in payments, contracts, and perks to “subcontractors” who did little to no work and were actually Madigan’s close allies. In a 2020 federal deferred prosecution agreement, ComEd agreed to pay a $200 million fine, and admitted it arranged jobs and subcontracts for various associates and high-ranking public officials, to influence and reward their efforts in assisting ComEd in getting legislation passed. A charge of bribery was deferred in exchange for ComEd’s agreement to cooperate in the ongoing investigation into political corruption in Illinois.
In a separate trial scheduled for 2024, Madigan faces more than 20 counts of corruption-related charges that include racketeering.
Those called to the stand to testify thus far include several former members of the House of Representatives who served during Madigan’s tenure, and officials from ComEd.
Senate Republicans continue to advocate for ethics reforms and seek to end the decades-long corruption and abuse cloud that hangs over the State Capitol.